Sexually active older people are considered a curiosity but a new survey suggests that lovemaking is often more fulfilling for ‘sexual survivors’ than those in the middle age.
A research fellow calls them “sexual survivors” – people over the age of 80 who still enjoy an active sex life. While physical challenges (erectile difficulties, for instance) occurred more frequently with age, the emotional side of sex appeared more fulfilling for people over 80. Men and women in this age bracket reported more shared sexual compatibility and emotional closeness than those in their 50s, 60s and 70s – which sounds like good news for anyone going through a drought in middle age.
Sex isn’t defined by penetration – some older people find more imaginative ways to keep their sex lives active. “We saw quite a lot of adaptation in the older people, saying they no longer had penetrative sexual intercourse and were more content with kissing and cuddling and general intimacy. We kept a very broad definition of sex. We saw what appeared to be adaptive behavior in the older members of our sample.”
Don’t bank on hitting your sexual peak so late, though. The problem is, having a sex life at all in your 80s is far from guaranteed. Only about one in 10 women aged 85 or older, and nearly one-quarter of men of that age, enjoy one. “They’re a minority, clearly, but they’re an interesting minority,” says Lee. “Among those who were [sexually active], it was quite interesting that they seemed happy with their sexual lives.”
Lee is studying what it takes to become a sexual survivor. There is likely to be a range of factors, he says. Having a partner is important, of course, and many people in their 80s have been widowed. “I would envisage that these [sexual survivors] are the healthiest people in older age,” he adds. Medication, for instance, can interfere with sex drive and ability.
Sexually active octogenarians are still considered such a curiosity that documentaries are made about them. We need to get used to the idea that some older people may want a fulfilling sex life – and take seriously the means to allow them to achieve this. “We’re simply trying to broaden the discussion around sex and saying, irrespective of age, there is a need for joined-up healthcare services that people can access if they wish. We’re seeing from the comments in our survey [that] when older people try to access healthcare [for] sexual problems, they have come across dismissal. ‘You should expect it at your age.’” But some have also seen how it becomes internalized in older people: “They think: ‘It’s not relevant to me anymore.’” Better, instead, to know you could enjoy a later-life sexual peak.
Good Sex At Any Age
The need for intimacy is ageless. And studies now confirm that no matter what your gender, you can enjoy sex for as long as you wish. Naturally, sex at 70 or 80 may not be like it is at 20 or 30—but in some ways it can be better. As an older adult, you may feel wiser than you were in your earlier years, and know what works best for you when it comes to your sex life. Older people often have a great deal, more self-confidence and self-awareness, and feel released from the unrealistic ideals of youth and prejudices of others. And with children grown and work less demanding, couples are better able to relax and enjoy one another without the old distractions.
For a number of reasons, though, many adults worry about sex in their later years, and end up turning away from sexual encounters. Some older adults feel embarrassed, either by their aging bodies or by their “performance,” while others are affected by illness or loss of a partner. Without accurate information and an open mind, a temporary situation can turn into a permanent one. You can avoid letting this happen by being proactive. Whether you’re seeking to restart or improve your sex life, it’s important to be ready to try new things, and to ask for professional help if necessary. There is much you can do to compensate for the normal changes that come with aging. With proper information and support, your later years can be an exciting time to explore both the emotional and sensual aspects of your sexuality.
As an older adult, the two things that may have brought the greatest joy—children and career—may no longer as prevalent in your everyday life. Personal relationships often take on a greater significance, and sex can be an important way of connecting. Sex has the power to:
- Improve mental and physical health. Sex can burn fat, cause the brain to release endorphins, and drastically reduce anxiety.
- Increase lifespan. Through its health-improving benefits, a good sex life can add years to your life.
- Solidify relationships. Sex is a chance to express the closeness of your deepest relationship.
- Give refuge. Sex gives you a chance to escape from the sometimes harsh realities of the world.
Sex in later life may not be the same as it was in your youth—but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, sex can be more enjoyable than ever. As you find yourself embracing your older identity, you can:
Reap the benefits of experience. The independence and self-confidence that come with age can be very attractive to your spouse or potential partners. No matter your gender, you may feel better about your body at 62 or 72 than you did at 22. And it is likely that you now know more about yourself and what makes you excited and happy. Your experience and self-possession can make your sex life exciting for you and your partner.
Look ahead. As you age, try to let go of expectations for your sex life. Do your best to avoid dwelling on how things are different. If you enjoyed an active sex life in your younger years, there’s no reason to slow down with age, unless you want to. A positive attitude and open mind can go a long way towards improving your sex life as you age.
Love and appreciate your older self. Naturally, your body is going through changes as you age. You look and feel differently than you did when you were younger. But if you can accept these changes as natural and hold your head up high, you’ll not only feel better, you’ll also be more attractive to others. Confidence and honesty garner the respect of others—and can be sexy and appealing.